Montrose County Sportsmen Speak-up in Defense of Public Lands and Public Access

October 10, 2014


Montrose County Commissioners,


On behalf of the membership of Colorado Backcountry Hunters & Anglers and the twenty-four undersigned Montrose County sportsmen, we urge you to reconsider the resolution that the commission unanimously approved in July to transfer federal public lands to the State. 


While we acknowledge the fact that federal land management is anything but perfect, that is no reason to throw the baby out with the bath water.  We are committed to help work towards solutions rather than attacking a resource and opportunity so near and dear to the hearts and minds of both Coloradan and non-resident sportsmen alike. 


We cannot stress enough the importance of quality public access to federal public lands. According to the Congressional Sportsman’s Foundation upwards of 90 percent of Coloradan sportsmen have hunted public lands in the past ten years.  National polls from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife back this stat up, showing that the number one reason that hunters give-up their tradition is due to a lack of quality public hunting access.  In addition, the most recent survey by Colorado Parks & Wildlife found that Montrose benefits enormously from excellent publicly-accessible outdoor recreation opportunities which support jobs in the county and generate $12,021,000 in economic output annually – a figure that’s much higher than most other Colorado Counties.  Coloradan residents understand both the economic and quality-of-life values that our public lands provide.  That’s why when polled, 66% of Colorado residents opposed the transfer of federal lands to the state, while only 26% supported it.    

In the proceedings from the discussion of the resolution, Commissioner Brown cited a pro-transfer platform adopted by the Republican National Convention as one of the key pieces of political backing for the motion. What about the people of Montrose County, the people that you are supposed to represent? 

Additionally, we find it quite odd that this transfer proposal was a product of the Montrose County Road Working Group, yet did not include any mention of how road maintenance would be funded and/or managed by the state under the proposal.  We formally request some explanation on this, as currently the state trust lands that the county apparently prefers offer limited to zero motorized recreation or access opportunities.  Would the motorized users be stuck footing the bill for this maintenance, or would it rest on the backs of the County residents?

Moreover, the vast majority of these state lands (80 percent) are currently closed to any public access or recreation whatsoever.  Sportsmen pay for public access to the remaining 20 percent through hunting license and fishing fees.  We’d appreciate some explanation on how the public access which you purport to ‘guarantee’ through this transfer would be funded?  We don’t have access to the state lands that we currently own, so please explain to us how exactly management under this transfer would be any different?

While we cannot speak for everyone in the County, we can and do speak for the public land sportsmen that have used these lands for generations and we strongly oppose this public land transfer concept.  The undersigned sportsmen and women agree and have formally signed-on in support of the following sportsman pledge:

As a North American hunter and angler, I pledge to speak up on behalf of conservation of the clean water, wildlife habitat, sportsman access, and public lands that belong to all of us. I will defend these values against those individuals, organizations and corporations who would sell or transfer our public lands and erode our habitat, opportunity and freedoms. I welcome new sportsmen and women, young and old, and will lead by example. I pledge to leave our wild public lands in better condition than I found them so that future generations can enjoy the benefits we are blessed to have today.

Sincerely,

Tim Brass

Southern Rockies Coordinator, Backcountry Hunters & Anglers

tim@backcountryhunters.org

651-206-4669

 

References:

Congressional Sportsman Foundation.  2003. “Access to Federal Hunting Lands in Colorado.”

http://www.responsivemanagement.com/download/reports/COHAReportdist.pdf

National Shooting Sports Foundation.  2011. “Issues Related to Hunting Access in the United States.”

http://www.nssf.org/PDF/research/HuntingAccessReport2011.pdf

Public Opinion Strategies. 2014. “Western  Voter  Attitudes  Toward  Management  of  Public  Land.”

http://cdn.americanprogress.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/2014-Western-Voter-Attitudes-Toward-Management-of-Public-Lands_analysis.pdf

Colorado Parks & Wildlife.  2013. “The Economic Contributions of Outdoor Recreation in Colorado.

http://c.ymcdn.com/sites/cpra-web.org/resource/resmgr/imported/Colorado%20SCORP%20Econ%20Report%2011-27-13.pdf

Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation (RMEF). “RMEF Opposes Sale or Transfer of Federal Public Lands.” RMEF: 10/6/14. http://www.rmef.org/NewsandMedia/PressRoom/NewsReleases/RMEFOpposesSaleorTransferofFederalPublicLands.aspx

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